The Book of Eli


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Has been a busy six months for this reviewer for post-apocalyptic films on the home video market: 2012, The Road, and now, after a nine year hiatus from the big screen, the Hughes Brothers bring us The Book Of Eli.

Having loved all their previous films, and frankly this reviewer would watch their leading man, Denzel Washington, in a film about watching grass grow—the man is just that good—Eli brings with it a certain pedigree that can either be a blessing or a curse, at least for audience expectation...

Set thirty years beyond an unexplored nuclear war, this film tells the story of a nomadic mystery man who is on a quest. Within his small knapsack lies a Bible—the only Bible remaining in a world where those who remain have lost faith and interest in God, and burned every other copy. Travelling west across the once United States, Eli adeptly and single-mindedly repels all who would get in the way of his mission. When he comes across a small township, ruled with an iron fist by a man with megalomaniacal aspirations (Gary Oldman), Eli faces his most dangerous opposition when his opponent attempts to take the book at any cost.

This story is a quandary of a result. In intent it tries to add layers and complexity, themes of the importance of faith, and heart to an easily recognisable mythological structure. In execution, it plays straight and down the line simplistic. Eli’s mission is (rightly) central, but does not afford him any time as a character, nor any of his supports, to exist beyond a mythological story responsibility. This robs the film of its obvious intent to create poignancy and texture. This is not to say its message is not clear—it’s simple and very clear: get book to the west coast—but it really does play like a well-trodden western, where the good guy kicks butt and the bad guy does bad guy stuff—all style, little substance at the end of the day. However, there is one terrific little twist about Eli at the end that I believe is worth the near two hours it asks of you.

Goes without saying, really, that Denzel and Gary are great performers and elevate their characters beyond what they deserve. Mila Kunis also shows some new sides to her range and of all the characters, she comes closest to having an actual character arc.

The direction, as always with the Hughes Brothers, is tight and beautiful. The actual look of the film plays hand-in-hand with the film’s no BS style, with its over-bleached palette, slightly unrealistic effects, and deliberate digital-matte work (skies especially) looking like a nod to the effects/western epics of yore. I really liked its look and feel it sold the film’s tone to perfection.

The Road, in this reviewer’s humble opinion, is a tough act to follow, should a filmmaker want to focus their post-apocalyptic themes on men trying to retain their humanity in a bleak, almost dead world, but although The Book Of Eli falls far short of that wondrous film, it is absolutely worth a look. Forget about its maker’s intentions, any thought of religious rhetoric, and you have a solid, well-performed and executed good guy vs. bad guy adventure.

Component Grades
3 Stars
4 stars
DVD Experience
3.5 stars


Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - June 15, 2010
Screen Formats: 2.40:1
: English SDH; French; Spanish
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; French: DTS 5.1; Spanish: DTS 5.1
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set (1 BD, 1 DVD); Digital copy; DVD copy

Eye-popping crisp picture, that serves up the sumptuous Hughes Brothers’ visuals on a first class silver platter. Great sound, works all speakers out dutifully. Generous special features, exploring most facets of the film, and a digital copy included to boot. Very good package on offer for the blu-ray.


Commentary Track:

  • WB Maximum Movie Mode - Picture-in-Picture cast and crew interview clips and commentaries.


  • A Lost Tale: Billy (1080p, 5:02)
  • Starting Over (1080p, 13:03)
  • Eli's Journey (1080p, 17:54)
  • The Book of Eli' Soundtrack (1080p, 4:59)

Deleted Scenes:

  • A collection of deleted and alternate scenes (1080p, 1:53)

Disc two of this set contains DVD and digital copies of The Book of Eli